Tampa Tribune speaks to Al From- Thoughts on the DLC legacy

DLCFrom Fresh Squeezed the Tampa Tribune’s Politics blog, a conversation with Al From who was one of the most controversial and influential figures in the Democratic PArty in the 1980s and 1990s.

From was probably the figure most responsible for the drift of the national Democratic Party from progressive force in the 1970s, to mushy moderates in the 1990s. From’s Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was a group many ambitious young Democrats, myself included flirted with the 1990s. However, in time I found the DLC to be largely made up of corporate-driven lobbyists and elected officials who were looking for ways to raise money and appear not to be liberal.

The group itself had almost no grassroots presence and while it led to the rise of the likes of Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh as national figures it also had the corrosive impact in ripping a coherent progressive ideology away from the Democrats. Thankfully the 2000s brought a decisive change, much of it motivated by the injustice of the 2000 election and the military debacle in Iraq. The Democratic Party returned to its principles and regained Congress in 2006 and the Presidency in 2008.

The DLC legacy is something that is now part of history. But those who have tried to hold on to it claiming Democrats are mispositioned ideologically simply don’t remember the 1990s well. In that period with the DLC ascendent,voter turnout dropped among core Democratic supporting groups, while ambitious elected officials who were self described “moderates” switched parties from Democratic to Republican in droves, particularly in the south. The party also lost both houses of Congress and became virtually indistinguishable from the GOP on many key issues.

The reality is that the DLC was always a top-down movement of politicians and lobbyists. Al From deserves credit for making such a large impact on the political consciousness of the nation while having such a small movement from the perspective of the number of people involved. The legacy of the DLC will be debated for many years along with that of the Clinton Presidency and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.


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